Introducing Students to “Professional” Linguistic Analysis Through Analytic Projects

Faculty Name Nicholas Henriksen
Course Spanish 410
  • Flipped Course
  • Tutorial Videos
  • Student Collected Data

Introduction

Nicholas Henriksen’s Spanish 410 course takes a more scientific, linguistic approach to Spanish. The semester is structured around students’ researching, recording, and analyzing speakers, then writing up their findings.

Active Learning in the Course

Rather than presenting data sets to demonstrate the differences between native and non-native Spanish speakers, this course is “flipped.” Students record and process their own data to test their hypotheses about the differences between groups of speakers, and the course works through the process for and implications of performing linguistic analysis.

Challenges and Solutions

In early iterations of the course, Henriksen was concerned that the Praat software used to do the analyses was too complicated for the students to learn effectively in a semester. Over the course of several semesters, he created videos to demonstrate how to use the software, eventually working with the Language Resource Center to create high-quality tutorial videos that are always available on the course site. These videos provide a resource for students outside of direct help from the professor. They have allowed students to get up-to-speed on the complicated program more quickly, which has improved the quality of their final projects.

Changes in Instruction

In early iterations of the course, the tutorial videos were rudimentary screencasts of the software, without sound or animation. While the videos did help the students, students were still emailing Henriksen to ask questions, leading him to feel like a lab manager rather than the instructor. By working with the LRC and an RA, high-quality videos could be produced that makes running the technical elements of the course nearly automated, letting everyone involved focus on the implications and complexities of the results rather than the technical aspects of the method.

Benefits for Students

The course is highly sought after, especially in the major, because of the real-world effects of the course assignments. For some students, it provides a concrete method to evaluate and improve their pronunciation. For others, it is a window into the work of research scholars working in the field, giving a glimpse into the profession and a possible career path.

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